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Senior Advocate Syed Anwar Hussain Khan of Ranchi (1907-82)

Illustrious Ancestry

Advocate Syed Anwar Hussain Khan, son of Syed Azhar Hussain Khan, was born in 1907 in a renowned Zamindar family of Patna (Bihar) which had been producing celebrated lawyers, jurists, administrators, governors, and poets since the early 17th century. Among his numerous illustrious ancestors, the prominent ones were: Mozaffar Husain Azim Khan Koka – Mughal Governor of Lahore, Kabul, Bengal, and Bihar; Muhammad Saleh Fedai Khan – Mughal Governor of Bihar; Mulla Naseer – Ambassador to the Safavid Court of Iran and the most senior professor of Saif Khan College, Patna; Nawab Ali Ibrahim Khan Khaleel – Urdu and Persian poet, Chief Justice and Governor of the Benares province; Nasiruddin Ali Khan – Chief Justice of Benares; Nejat Hussain Khan Ashki Azimabadi – author of several voluminous Persian tomes including Tazkirat-ul-Akabir, and one of the earliest chroniclers of Lucknow; and Taqi Hasan Khan Wafa Azimabadi – Urdu poet and a highly influential Honorary Magistrate in Bihar.

His family originated in Mecca which, over the years, settled in Turkey, Faizabad, Hussainabad (Shaikhpura), Patna, Bhagalpur, and Ranchi. The family forged matrimonial alliances with the different ruling houses of the world including the Seljuqs, Murshidabad, Awadh, and Salar Jungs. Eminent historians, including but not limited to, Henry Miers Elliot, John Dowson, Charles Robert Wilson, Jadunath Sarkar, Syed Hassan Askari, Qeyamuddin Ahmad, and Nandini Chatterjee have extensively written about his family. A vast corpus of works, in English, Persian and, Urdu, delineating the achievements of his clan is hitherto undocumented.

Distinguished Career and Notable Achievements in Advocacy

Like his father, Mr. Anwar Hussain was a tall, dandy, and fine-looking gentleman. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts, he graduated in Law from the celebrated Patna Law College with flying colors. His rendezvous with the legal profession commenced in 1932 and in a career spanning over five decades he carved a niche for himself by winning some of the most complex and high-profile lawsuits. Emerging as one of the leading lawyers of India Mr. Anwar Hussain made extensive contributions to the field of legal services. Professionally, he was an exemplary Criminal and Civil attorney of the Ranchi Sessions Court and Patna High Court. His expertise in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional subjects attracted him clients from all over the country and he defended their cases with the utmost diligence and acumen.

A high point to his career arrived when he routed Sr. Advocate Nageshwar Prasad of the Patna High Court in a high-status legal battle between Mr. Ameen Ahmad, S.D.O., and Baldeo Sahu, the liquor baron of Chotanagpur.

It was his legal acumen coupled with the art of cross-examination that drew to him a politician like Shaikh Abdullah for the Kashmir Conspiracy Case but he declined the offer. Similarly, he turned down the Judgeship of the District and Sessions Court, Patna High Court, and the Supreme Court of India, as he preferred advocacy as a more challenging and independent opportunity.

Impact on Politics and Enduring Social Contributions

Following the footsteps of his ancestors, Mr. Anwar Hussain remained dynamic in the national politics of his times and led the Ranchi District Muslim League as its General Secretary. In 1962, he contested the elections to the Legislative Council of Bihar. It would be apt to mention here that his real maternal uncle Syed Mohiuddin Ahmad had represented Ranchi as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar in 1937 and delivered the maiden speech.

He enjoyed a vast circle of luminaries as his close friends which included Zakir Hussain, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shah Ozair Munemi, Abdul Qaiyum Ansari, Syed Maqbool Ahmad, Barrister Muhammad Yunus, Jameel Mazhari, Dr. S. M. Nawab, Ram Ratan Ram, Krishna Ballabh Sahay, Kartik Oraon, Jaipal Singh Munda, Chief Justice Syed Murtaza Fazl Ali and Minoo Masani, among others.

Mr. Anwar Hussain is still remembered across the country for his social services which are far and wide in terms of quantum. When the Public Urdu Library was founded in Ranchi in 1938 he worked as one of its trustees and founding members. Acting as the Chairman of the library he gave new dimensions to this temple of learning. The library still exists in the town and is considered the finest among all.

Patronage of Literature, Hosting Luminaries, and Humanitarian Acts

Being an aficionado of Urdu and Persian literature he regularly graced the annual functions of the Bazm-e-Adab of Ranchi College. One of his photographs along with Abdul Qaiyum Ansari, which was taken during a function, adorned the wall of the Urdu department for decades. Whenever a literary giant, poet, and religious scholar visited Ranchi they made sure to pay him a visitation. He played a perfect host to Raja Sahabs of Pirpur, and Mahmudabad when they were touring different parts of Bihar. His friendship with the erudite storyteller Sohail Azimabadi is still appreciated by scholars.

After the partition of the country in 1947 when the lawyers were no more defending the legal tangles of the Indian Muslims it was his persona that attracted all such people in distress and won them the legal battles. His house gave refuge to people of all religions who were affected by the ordeal and plight of the partition. Being a Nationalist and Freedom Fighter, he preferred to live in India.

Maulvi Abdur Rasul, a leader of anti-partition agitation

Anwar Hussain’s Courageous Stand, And Contributions to Ranchi’s Development

It would be interesting to register here that the British Government was compelled to withdraw all the six charges framed against him in a case wherein Mr. Anwar Hussain had saved the life of a tailor who was attacked by a frenzied mob during a procession in 1947 that was passing by his grand residence on the Main Road. His arrest had created an uproar across the state whose echo was felt in the Bihar Legislative Assembly on 3rd October 1947 when Mr. Saiyid Maqbul Ahmad, M.L.A., rigorously grilled the then Prime Minister of Bihar, Sri Krishna Sinha. Despite the appointment of Mr. Gopal Prasad, Barrister-at-Law, one of the best prosecution lawyers in India, the government could not win the case.

When the family members of Tipu Sultan swerved to Ranchi, they were given proper refuge by this legendary Advocate and he made sure that they were safely relocated to their home.

In 1957, when Minoo Masani was contesting for the Parliamentary seat from Ranchi, Mr. Anwar Hussain provided him enough support and backup to win the elections. He actively campaigned for him in the tribal areas and garnered support for him. Consequently, Mr. Masani won the Lok Sabha elections and paid his benefactor the gratitude and appreciation he deserved.

In 1959, Ranchi Improvement Trust was constituted for the expansion and development of Ranchi and Doranda. Mr. Anwar Hussain was inducted as one of the members of the trust which prepared the first master plan of Ranchi in 1965. The plan was approved by the government in 1972.

Contributions to Social Welfare and Education

Serving society was a noble deed that he always kept dear to himself. His welfare services in the aftermath of the Ranchi – Hatia riots in 1967 (Aug 22 – 29) are still reckoned by the old citizens of the city. He along with a handful of the gentry of Ranchi constituted the Central Relief Committee which set up camps in different parts of the town and aggressively provided relief services to those who were affected by the riots. Acting as the General Secretary of the Committee, he donated INR 67,000 for purchasing land for the construction of a hospital. His vision of a hospital bore fruits and Anjuman Islamia Hospital came into existence at Konka Road, which is still functioning with its all glory and efficiency.

Mr. Anwar Hussain was a member of the Bihar State Shia Waqf Board in the 1960s and consequently, the board made tremendous progress towards the development of the Waqf properties across the state. His services in the domain are well-documented in The Review of Waqf Administration, 1969.

Believing in the dissemination of education across all sections, his contributions in this domain are commendable. He was closely associated as an office-bearer with the Maulana Azad High School and was a founding member of Maulana Azad College which was established in 1971.

He presided over the annual general meeting of Milli Talimi Mission on 23rd September 1973 in which it was resolved that the society would be registered under the Societies Regulation Act of 1860. Mr. Hussain also acted as the Election Officer of the Mission when its board was formed for the first time. His professional counsel to the Mission is still recalled by the senior members of the organization.

Inclusive Approach and Contributions to Healthcare and Religious Harmony

Being a secular person, Mr. Anwar Hussain’s reputation cut across all the sections of society and it was on account of such merit he represented the managing board of the oldest Gurudwara of Ranchi, and invariably led the grand procession from Ratu Road to Main Road which is thus far taken out to commemorate the birthday of Guru Nanak. Reciprocating his gesture of love towards all religions, the Gurudwara Committee gifted him a few religious artifacts for the Muharram procession that he had established in Ranchi. Late Sardar Avtar Singh Azad, an eminent member of the Sikh community and freedom fighter, was a lifelong acquaintance of Mr. Anwar Hussain.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s address while inaugurating the first IIT at Kharagpur in 1951

Ranchi has done pathbreaking works in the field of Psychiatry, and Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry and Allied Sciences (Indian Mental Hospital – 1925), and Central Institute of Psychiatry (Ranchi European Lunatic Asylum – 1918) are the two institutions of repute working in the field. Such institutions required men of learning to steer them to success and so Mr. Anwar Hussain was elected as a member of the board of Indian Mental Hospital, where he actively participated in the meetings and provided legal counsel.

When Mr. Yasin Yunus, son of Barrister Muhammad Yunus who was the first Prime Minister of Bihar, was admitted to the Itki Sanatorium Ranchi for the treatment of Tuberculosis, it was Mr. Anwar Hussain who acted as his guardian. His acquaintance with Mr. Yunus could be ascertained from the fact that he had sent Advocate Mr. Basharat Kareem to defend Mr. Anwar Hussain Hussain when he was incarcerated in the Ranchi Jail on the charges of saving a life and chasing down a frenzied mob.

Devotion to Commemorating Muharram, and Community Building

The list of his services towards society and humanity is extensive and it is impossible to enumerate all in a biographical sketch.

Being a true sponsor and flag-bearer of the Azadari of Shohda-e-Karbala, he ensured Azadari during Muharram and Arbaeen was conducted with the utmost earnestness and zeal in his house. Till now his house serves as the starting point of the processions on Shab-e-Ashura and Arbaeen. It would be not out of place to mention that it was his ancestor Haji Syed Ahmad Ali Qeyamat who had established Azadari in Patna in 1722. His family is the patron of one of the oldest Ashra-e-Majalis in Bhagalpur.
His contribution towards the commemoration of Muharram in Ranchi is exemplary. He established the tradition of Azadari in Ranchi in 1932 which constituted the organization of Majalis in the months of Muharram and Arbaeen. In 1968, he established the procession on the 40th day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (PBUH). He was a patron of the procession on the 10th day of Muharram which began in 1977.

When ‘Hussain Day’ was instituted in Chakardharpur, Mr. Anwar Hussain became one of its prime benefactors and ensured that he attended all the annual congregations. So long Mr. Zakir Hussain, future President of India, was the Governor of Bihar he accompanied him to Chakardharpur for the assemblies. Their camaraderie lasted lifelong.

Establishment of Anjuman-e-Jafaria and Shia Mosque in Ranchi

It was his sons and members of the town who had constituted the Anjuman-e-Jafaria that constructed a mosque and an Imambargah in Ranchi. His second son, the Senior Advocate Syed Yawar Hussain of Patna High Court, was the tour de force behind procuring the land for the aforementioned religious places, and his intellectual acumen with a desire to serve the community facilitated the legal modus operandi. He successfully led the campaign which made the dream of a Shia mosque possible in a communally charged district like Ranchi. It was a testimony of his stature that he was invited by the Muslims of Ranchi to place the preliminary block of the mosque.

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Accomplished Sons, Literary Contributions, and Sporting Enthusiasm

Anwar Hussain’s eldest son, Advocate Syed Khurshid Anwar (d. 1998), was employed as a Principal Probation Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs; he had authored a convincing and copious commentary on the Probation Law which is still consulted by the authorities. He was also the editor of Sentinel, the oldest English weekly of Chotanagpur which was started in 1935 by Khan Bahadur Advocate Syed Mohiuddin Ahmad – who was the real maternal uncle of Syed Anwar Hussain Khan and had represented Shaikh Abdullah as the Chief Defense Counsel in the well-known Kashmir Conspiracy case.
Syed Mansoor Anwar, his younger son, died prematurely in 1997 while serving as the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Madhepura, Bihar and, thus, his early demise sealed his fate of becoming a High Court judge. His youngest son, Syed Tanweer Anwar, died on 19th January 2021 in Bangalore and was buried there. He held several important portfolios in multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Being a sportsman, Mr. Anwar Hussain actively participated in Lawn Tennis and Football. The elitist Ranchi Club was his turf where he played Lawn Tennis with the British officials. He actively participated as a referee in the football matches of the British clubs in Ranchi.

Condolences Nationwide for the Departure of Advocate Syed Anwar Hussain Khan

After leading a successful life of Seventy-Five years, Mr. Anwar Hussain died in Ranchi in 1982 and was buried in the Ratu Road graveyard. As a tribute to the departed soul, condolence messages poured in from across the country and many newspapers carried the report of his demise.

The writer of this article is Syed Faizan Raza, who is the great-grandson of Advocate Syed Anwar Hussain Khan. He is a Jaipur-based IT professional. Please contact him on [email protected]



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